Born in Guipavas (Finistère), July 6, 1832
Taking of the habit in Nancy, February 15, 1859
Oblation in Nancy, February 17, 1860 (No. 497)
Ordination to the priesthood in Marseilles, July 14, 1861
Died in Calgary, January 10, 1893.
Alexis André was born son of Annette Guevel and Gouesnou André, a farmer, in Guipavas, in the diocese of Quimper, on July 6, 1832. He did his studies at the minor seminary of Pont-Croix from 1851 to 1856, then at the major seminary of Quimper from 1856 to 1859. After receiving the subdiaconate, he entered the novitiate in Nancy on February 15, 1859 and made his oblation there on February 17, 1860. He spent one year at the scholasticate of Montolivet and, on July 14, 1861, was ordained to the priesthood in Marseilles at the hands of Bishop Jacques Jeancard. In March of 1860, Father Mouchette, moderator of scholastic brothers wrote: “Brother André, good, regular observance, prayerful, but of a rustic candour without tact or sophistication.” In May of 1861, he added: “regular observance, but is not an edifying presence in the community. He is too careless about his external appearance, sometimes being crude without being aware of it. I do however believe in his good will. He is keen on the missions.”
Father Andre subsequently spent his life in western Canada. He ministered to the Cree nations, especially the Métis in the diocese of Saint Boniface and in the vicariate apostolic of Saint Albert. Initially, Bishop Taché sent him to the Saint Joseph of Pembina mission in the diocese of Saint Paul in North Dakota. He worked there from 1861 to 1864. In 1863-1864, the American government sent him on a peace mission to the Sioux. This mission bore no fruit.
In 1864-1865, he was director and professor at Saint Boniface College with pastoral responsibility for the mission of Saint Charles in Manitoba. He then worked in Saint Albert and subsequently was given pastoral responsibility for Saint Paul of the Crees in Brosseau in 1867-1871. From 1871 until 1883, he did missionary work in the future province of Saskatchewan where he founded several missions: Battleford, Saint-Laurent de Grandin, Duck Lake, Carlton, Batoche, Muskeg Lake, Saint-Louis-de-Langevin, etc. He was director of the Oblate house in Prince Albert from 1883-1886; he took up residence in Calgary from 1886 to 1893.
A few times, Father André was chosen to be spokesman for the Métis with regard to the governmental authorities. In February 1885, he informed Mr. Edgar Dewdney, the Lieutenant Governor for the Northwest Territories of the dangers of violence on the part of the Métis. Father André did not follow Louis Riel during the rebellion. He helped him prepare his soul before his execution on November 16, 1885. Father André took part in the Oblate General Chapter held in Paris in 1887 as the delegate for the vicariate of Saint Albert.
According to Fathers Hippolyte Leduc and Joseph Lestanc, Father André displayed his whole life through a temperament that was “a little brusque and without polish in his manners, but he was pleasant in conversation and knew how to hearten his companions.” He was a man of zeal and prepared well his sermons and his catechetical instructions. His “zeal was nourished by a prayer life that was sincere, simple and solid, but sometimes a bit idiosyncratic like the man himself,” adds the authors of his obituary. He loved Our Lord and the Church with his whole soul. His confidence in Mary knew no bounds. He loved to preach about her goodness, her mercy and her power. As far as he was concerned, any other devotions were superfluous, and he treated God very much as he would treat anyone else. He gave the same consideration to Our Lord, to the Blessed Mother, to the Church as he would to anyone else. Scrupulosity was totally foreign to him. As he put it, he did not want to waste his time looking for warts on an egg or even more, he did not -- and this too was his turn of phrase – want to drown himself in glass of water.”
He died in hospital in Calgary on January 10, 1893. His remains were laid to rest in the cemetery in Saint Albert.
Sources and Bibliography
G.A: Oblation formula; two letters to
Archives of the Archdiocese of Saint Boniface: 19 letters to Bishop Taché (1861-1869); some twenty letters dealing with the question of the Sioux.
Leduc, Hippolyte and Lestanc, Joseph, o.m.i., “R.P. Alexis André, o.m.i.”, in Notices nécrologiques O.M.I., Vol. VII, Bar-le-Duc, 1899, p. 390-401.
Boudens, Robrecht, o.m.i., “La mission conciliatrice du P. Alexis André auprès des Sioux 1863-1865”, in Études oblates 18 (1959), p. 404-414.
Carrière, Gaston, o.m.i., “Alexis André, o.m.i.”, in Dictionnaire biographique des O.M.I. au Canada; Vol. I, Ottawa, 1976, p. 26-27.
Robertson, D. F., “Alexis André”, in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, University of Toronto Press/ Les Presses de l’Université Laval, Vol. XII (1891-1900) 1990.